I was contacted this week by Richard Schurman, who is one member of a team led by TJSL Adjunct Professor Randy Berholtz engaged in a year-long IP Honours Research Project with the goal of assisting bio-pharmaceutical companies and patent practitioners in deciding which countries to file for patent protection. (Richard is second from the left in the above photo. The other pictured are, from left to right, co-researchers Derek Midkiff, Sumant Pathak, Katherine MacFarlane and Vince Davies.)
According to a TJSL media release:
The goal of the honours research project is to provide life science companies and patent practitioners with a comprehensive guide regarding the countries where biopharma patents are filed, the countries where life science companies and patent practitioners should file for patent protection, and the factors that life science companies and patent practitioners should take into consideration when strategizing for international patent protection.
The project includes a survey of practitioners, for which each member of the team has taken on a different region of the world. Richard is responsible for the Asia-Pacific region, which of course includes Australia and New Zealand.
Importance of Input from AustralasiaAs regular readers of this blog will be aware, Australia has an active pharmaceutical industry, and a market in which drug originators compete with generic manufacturers for sales of unpatented products. Patents thus play an important role in the Australian pharmaceutical market, and litigation over blockbuster drug patents is not uncommon. Current, and recently-concluded, cases in the Federal Court of Australia have involved drug originators such as GlaxoSmithKline, Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare, H Lundbeck, AstraZeneca, Albany Molecular Research, Sanofi-Aventis and Wyeth, and generic manufacturers such as Alphapharm, Sigma Pharmaceuticals, Aspen Pharma, Sandoz and Apotex.
The situation in New Zealand is a little different. For government-subsidised drugs (i.e. the majority of pharmaceutical sales) there is no competition for sales to the end consumer. Instead, subsidised medications are purchased on behalf of the New Zealand government by its agency Pharmac, which issues multi-product tenders annually for the supply of selected drugs. Patents are therefore significant in New Zealand because they can determine the ability of generic manufacturers to participate in the tender process.
Strategies for filing patents into Australia and New Zealand are therefore important. And, of course, strategies for filing internationally are important to companies and research institutions conducting work in Australia and New Zealand on new medications, treatments and therapies.
Responses to the TJSL survey from attorneys practising in Australia and New Zealand will therefore be of great value to the project.